Alumni reconnect, celebrate President Leo Lambert and Laurie Lambert at Rock the Block
In its second year, the Rock the Block community party drew hundreds to East Haggard Avenue for music, food, games and fellowship.
Fireworks bursting in the sky above Moseley Center capped a celebration Friday night of everything President Leo M. Lambert and Laurie Lambert have meant to Elon University during the past two decades.
The tribute before a crowd of hundreds of alumni, students, faculty, staff and university friends who gathered on East Haggard Avenue and Young Commons added to the excitement of the Rock the Block community party, which kicked off Homecoming weekend for a second year.
"We have a lifetime of great and important work ahead of us to steward and guide Elon's future," Lambert said following a video tribute that recounted many great moments from his career. "I look forward to joining in that work so that Elon's lamps — Numen and Lumen — will shine brightly and welcome generations of students. I look forward to my new chapter here with joy and anticipation."
The heart of Elon's campus thumped with the sounds of The Band Punch, while the Elon faithful gathering around a variety of food trucks to catch up. On Young Commons, people challenged each other at cornhole, or put on their best faces as caricature artists sketched their likenesses. They swapped tales from their years at Elon, shared the latest details about their careers, and introduced the newest members of their expanding families.
The Rock the Block community party, introduced last year, brings together generations of alumni along with current students, faculty and staff for an evening of fun and fellowship. It helps kick off a weekend that would eventually draw a record-breaking 2,700 alumni and their families to campus to participate in a range of activities including open houses at Elon's schools and academic departments, class and affinity network reunions and celebrations of the accomplishments of Elon graduates.
Central to the night was the tribute to the Lamberts, with Elon alumni from across more than five decades offering their thoughts about the role President Lambert has played in guiding Elon to become a national university, and the important work that Laurie Lambert has done by his side and in so many corners of the broader community. Lambert will conclude his service as president of Elon in the spring, with President-elect Connie Ledoux Book starting her term as Elon's ninth president on March 1.
Brian Feeley, director of alumni engagement, welcomed four distinguished alumni to the stage to express their gratitude for the Lamberts' leadership and friendship since they arrived at Elon 18 years ago. Leo and Laurie Lambert were joined on the stage by their daughters, Mollie Lambert and Dr. Callie Lambert Brown, and her husband, David, along with their children, Caleb and Anna.
Dr. William N.P. Herbert '68, a former chair of the Elon board of trustees, said outstanding leadership has been a constant at Elon during the past 50 years, even as the university has gone through monumental changes.
"There certainly has been a lot of change in my lifetime, but if Elon alumni know one thing, it is that change is good, change is growth, and change is being alive," Herbert said. "President Leo M. Lambert has carried on a great tradition strengthened by the seven presidents who preceded him."
Herbert said the night also offered a chance to recognize Laurie Lambert, who has supported "every facet of university life" during the past 18 years as she has "welcomed thousands into their home and represented Elon around the country and the world. She has served the communities of Elon and Burlington with distinction and with an eye toward making life better for those who live at its margins."
A 1992 graduate and president of the Elon Alumni Board, Chris Bell, touted the accomplishments of Elon under President Lambert's leadership, including the creation of the Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences; professional schools of communications, education, law and health sciences; the transition to larger and more competitive athletic conferences; and the creation of one of the country's most engaging and robust educational environments.
Bell noted that Elon now has 38 active alumni-led chapters across the country, with the number of alumni attending events, volunteering through chapter-led activities and supporting Elon as donors rising sharply.
"His vision that Elon's alumni engagement would become best in class has resulted in national recognition for alumni outreach," Bell said. "Our alumni body is opening doors for one another, serving as mentors for students, and our accomplishments are propelling Elon's national reputation."
Kelly Smith '14, president of the Young Alumni Council, elaborated further on what President Lambert has done to be a champion for all alumni, noting that he has awarded 23,600 diplomas during his time at Elon. Elon has opened the Martin Alumni Center during Lambert's presidency, established a Young Alumni Council and empowered the growth of Elon's diverse Affinity Groups. "He's gotten to know us, and always tells us how proud he is of us," Smith said.
As he has guided Elon, Lambert has centered his focus on its students, said Kebbler McGhee Williams '98, secretary of Elon's board of trustees. "He leaves for each of us a legacy of which we can truly be proud — a globally focused institution that produces graduates the world so desperately needs," Williams said. "It's on each of us as alumni, to carry on his legacy. During and long after this historic transition for our university, it is incumbent upon us to be leaders, advocates, volunteers and philanthropists for our alma mater like never before."
Led by the Lamberts, the crowd cheered, "Long Live Elon!" to spark the first fireworks, with the lights and explosions filling the sky above the Moseley Center.